Life after death

Cancer strikes and true love strikes back

Union Leader Correspondent
June 13. 2013 10:15PM
While celebrating the memories of their former spouses who both died from cancer several years ago, Sean Roberson and Cathy Duso will be married today at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event in Nashua. (Courtesy)

NASHUA — Brought together by tragic circumstances, an area couple is about to embark on a new life together while trying to save others from experiencing the pain of loss they both endured.

Sean Roberson and Cathy Duso had never met before they were connected through an online dating website about two years ago. Both widowed, the two were not sure they would ever find true love after losing their soul mates to cancer.

But the couple began dating, sharing their pasts with one another and continuing to celebrate their previous marriages while also trying to begin a new life together.

"We connected immediately, and we fell in love very quickly," said Duso, 40, who works in the food services industry for the Merrimack School District. "We realized that there is a chance to have a second love of a lifetime."

Today, the couple will be married at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event at Nashua High School North.

Roberson said the relay event has been an important part of his past life, and he hopes it will continue to be just as vital in his future life with Duso. When Roberson's former spouse, Barbara, was found to have a cancerous tumor on her colon, they were hoping she would survive long enough to participate in the Relay for Life in 2005. She died just days before the event.

Similarly, Duso's former spouse, John, was diagnosed with sarcoma and passed away just a few days after their son's first birthday in 2002.

"Together, our goal is to now raise awareness and raise funds to help others battle cancer," said Duso. "The wedding has become an incentive."

All of their wedding guests have been asked to donate to the couple's Relay for Life team, dubbed Second Chances, rather than give wedding presents.

Roberson, 48, who is employed at the Manchester Veterans Affairs Medical Center, says it will be an emotional event filled with memories and hope — not just for the two of them but for all of the participants in the Relay for Life.

Everyone who walks in the relay has been touched somehow by cancer, according Peter Ames, vice president of health initiatives for the American Cancer Society.

"Survivors are the heart and soul of this event. We resolve to fight back, and also remember those that we have lost along the way," said Ames. "We are all committed to seeing this through and ending cancer."

Ames praised Roberson and Duso, who have collected a combined total of more than $10,000 for the American Cancer Society. The local relay, which begins at 6 p.m. today and concludes on Saturday following a night-long walk, is expected to raise more than $50,000 for cancer research and assistance with local support programs. The event is open to the public.

"Relay is really designed to empower people to fight back," Ames said.

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